Lindsey Thiry: My general assessment of this team going into fall camp is if they can stay healthy, they are going to be very tough for any opponent to beat. Their offense should be second to none. Prior to Silas Reed transferring, there were concerns over the depth at running back and on the defensive line. Obviously, with the addition of Reed there will be no holes on offense. The only weakness of this Trojan team really now is the defensive line and that was compounded during the last week of summer workouts when senior DE Devon Kennard tore his pectoral muscle. .
Devils Digest: Do you share the very high expectations the media and fans have of USC this year not only to win the Pac-12, but perhaps the national championship?
Lindsey Thiry: Definitely. As mentioned, there were only two positions of concern going into fall camp and with the addition of Reed, there is now only one. This team hit their stride during the second half of last season, if they can pick up where they left off they will only continue to improve and will be unstoppable in the Pac12 and should contend for the National Championship.
Devils Digest: Going into fall camp what do you feel is the biggest strength of this team and what is its biggest weakness?
Lindsey Thiry: Biggest strength has to be Matt Barkley. Veteran quarterback who was patient while talent developed around him last season and lead his team through spring and summer workouts. The Trojans couldn't have asked to be setup for success any better this season than when Barkley announced he'd return for his senior year. The biggest weakness will be the defensive line. The only veteran presence will be Wes Horton with Devon Kennard out with a torn pectoral muscle. The timetable for his return is unknown, but that injury typically takes 2-3 months to recover from. Expect true freshman Leonard Williams or RS freshman Greg Townsend to try to plug that hole.
Devils Digest: Compared to most of the other Pac-12 South USC will field a more experienced quarterback. Do you expect the USC offense to be more explosive than its conference foes becasue of that ?
Lindsey Thiry: Absolutely. Not only do they return the most experienced quarterback, they return two of arguably the top receivers in the country in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. No other team in the conference returns a trio who was running on all cylinders last season like these three were together. While Woods and Lee are dominant, there would be an obvious (albeit most likely small) setback if a new quarterback was inserted.
Devils Digest: Which contest on the schedule do you think is a key game and why?
Lindsey Thiry: Oregon in November. The Ducks have been the strongest Pac-12 program when the Trojans were under sanctions and they'll look to make a statement in Los Angeles after USC went to Eugene and beat them just a season ago. Oregon's run game could be a real test for the Trojans defensive line.
Devils Digest: Name one player on offense and one player on defense that may be relatively unknown and that you expect to make an impact in 2012?
Lindsey Thiry: Offense: Nelson Agholor. The true freshman has been outstanding at summer workouts. Robert Woods even went so far as to say that it would appear Agholor is more in touch with the playbook than he was at this point in his freshman campaign. USC head coach Lane Kiffin said Agholor would be used at running back, but that was prior to Reed transferring. Agholor should make a case to be a strong third receiver. Defense.... Whoever fills in that spot on the d-line for Devon Kennard will have to come up big - so (insert name here) freshman.
Devils Digest: What is your 2012 prediction and do you think that record is satisfactory?
My prediction is that the Trojans will play for a National Championship and will lose the game. I think that's more than satisfactory for team who has 75 players and has been under a two year bowl ban. However, with as much hype as there is around this team and the return of Matt Barkley, no one will walk away thinking that outcome is "Satisfactory".